Text: Exodus 2:23-25; 6:6-8; Deuteronomy 6:20-24; Psalm 19:7-11
This week we are looking at the third key theme of “The Old Testament in Seven Sentences.” Those summary themes come from a book by the same name that Jim Hinton’s Sunday school class is studying and is part of our summer series looking at God’s big story in the Bible. Often we zero in so closely on one verse or word that we miss the greater – the glorious! – context of God’s big story. So this summer we are pulling back to the wide view, though with plenty of rich teaching to consider along the way.
Here’s a reminder of what we’ve covered so far and the third theme we’ll look at today.
1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
2. All people on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3)
3. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt,
out of the land of slavery. (Exodus 20:2)
That verse is a critical “hinge” verse between two major components of God’s story in the Old Testament. It transitions between one of God’s great redemption stories and the giving of God’s Law as a guide to the covenant promise of blessing. This verse calls into one place those great themes of REDEMPTION and BLESSING and I want to unpack those a bit for you today.
Hinge Verse (Exodus 20:2)
First, why do I call it a hinge verse? It’s because of what it calls to mind and what comes after it. Exodus 20:2 is a declaration of who God is and what God has done: namely, the God who has delivered His people out of slavery in Egypt. That’s the REDEMPTION part.
What is the other side of the hinge? It’s the Law. This verse is part of the prologue to the Ten Commandments specifically; but it also points on to the whole Law given to Moses from God. But wait! I said redemption and blessing, not redemption and Law. We will see that the purpose of the Law was to experience that third covenant promise that God would bless Abraham and his children so that they would be a blessing to the world, to the nations.
The Exodus story is a redemption story. God’s people had become enslaved in Egypt for some 400 years. There were beatings, killing of male children, and servitude. And scripture tells us that God heard the cries of His people and raised up a deliverer. The story of Moses is worth studying in depth on its own, from God revealing His name at the burning bush to using an old man with a speech impediment to demand freedom before the most powerful man in the world. In fact, Pharaoh was considered a god. In what followed, God did just what we talked about last week with the covenant. God put His name and reputation on the line to confront and defeat the so-called god and power of Egypt.
And so through the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea to deliver Israel, and the closing of the Red Sea to defeat the Egyptians, God redeemed His people and put them on the path to recovering the land and the blessing promised in the covenant with Abraham. That’s why it was called the Promised Land.
And so the people of Israel start passing through the wilderness toward that Land and it is there that we come to today’s key verse from Exodus 20:2. To and through Moses God identifies Himself as “the Lord your God” – that is, by the holy name. And then God gives Moses the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law that follows.
Law and Blessing
There is much that could be said about the Law. After all, it comprises much of the rest of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy (where everything is given again to the subsequent generation). But I want to focus on two things: a mis-understanding of the Law and what I believe is the right understanding of the Law.
First, the misunderstanding: the Law was not given for salvation. In that context God had already “saved” His people. That’s what the deliverance from slavery was – it was rescue, salvation, redemption. God had already done it. We mis-read and mis-use the Old Testament Law when we treat it as conditions for eternal or spiritual salvation. It was not that in the Old Testament and Jesus (and Paul) make clear that it is not that in the New Testament. It is Jesus who saves us spiritually and eternally. So just as God saved His people in a physical and historical sense in Exodus; God saves in a spiritual and eternal sense through Jesus Christ. It is all God, all the time.
So what is the purpose of the Law? It was part of the covenant, an elaboration on the covenant with Abraham. In effect it was the guidebook on how to experience the blessings that were part of the covenant. Remember that? The third covenant promise was to be blessed to be a blessing. And the Law spelled out how to experience that.
We talked about that some last week. In a word, that blessing is shalom – the Hebrew concept of peace, wholeness, healing, and mutual blessing (involves others!). It doesn’t correspond to earthly prosperity, but to being in the will of God. One can be poor or sick and experience shalom in the will of God. And one can seemingly “have everything” but be spiritually poor, missing the blessing of God by running counter to God’s will.
The book from which we are taking this idea of “The Old Testament in Seven Sentences” says it this way: the Law is not a condition of our salvation, but a condition of our mission.
What is our mission? It is precisely that third part of the covenant: we have been blessed so that we may be a blessing. God saved Israel from slavery in Egypt. But it was not only that they might be free, but that they might be free to bless the world.
Through Jesus Christ, God has saved us spiritually and eternally. But it is not that we might have our ticket punched for heaven, but that we might participate in God’s ongoing work to bless humanity, the world, and the nations. Remember those themes from the first two weeks? God is undoing the Fall and saving us to be a part of that work.
Again, we don’t do that work to be saved; we are saved to do that work.
So what does “mission: blessing” look like for us? It is not a mission we create, but one we join in with God. It is joining the risen Jesus in proclaiming and enacting freedom for the captive, healing for the sick, anticipating the Kingdom of God in our midst. It’s why we are concerned both with people’s spiritual health and people’s physical and emotional well-being. That’s shalom! It’s why we work for justice in the face of injustice in the world and in our communities. It’s why we love our neighbors and have a Friends of Timothy Fund and deacons. It’s why we pray for one another and show up for one another and reach out to one another.
We are saved for a mission: to love and bless those around us and participate in the work of God.
My prayer is that God will show each one of us how we can be a part. Remember that old question I asked for many years? It’s still relevant: What is God doing in and around me and how can I be a part? What is God doing in and around US and how can we be a part as a community of believers?
God help us see and hear and join in! Amen.
4. The Lord has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him ruler of His people. (1 Samuel 13:14)
SOME MUSIC USED
- Everlasting God
- How He Loves
- Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone
- OFFERTORY: Deliver Us (from “Behold the Lamb of God” – Andrew Peterson)